Belgium's climate finance: significant results, but not enough to meet climate challenges

The Special Evaluation Office has conducted a thorough review of Belgian climate finance. Belgium's success is significant, however, the impact of climate actions does not match the climate challenges. This is mainly because the main players lack a common vision. For this reason, the government will clarify the priorities for climate measures and give more guidance and resources to the players involved.

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Water pump Senegal

An example of adaptation: a well was drilled in Senegal as part of an Enabel project. A water pump powered by solar energy ensures the irrigation of the fields. © ADE

In the Paris climate agreement, rich countries promised to assist poorer countries in their battle against climate change. Starting in 2020, they would donate an annual sum of 100 billion euros, but that mark has not yet been met. Nor was the latest climate summit in Glasgow successful in mapping out a path towards organising these investments of 100 billion euros. Belgium will, however, increase its 'climate finance' and spend at least 135 million euros annually as from 2022.

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Climate action

Quality evaluation

But what about the quality of Belgian climate finance? Between 2013 and 2019, the federal government spent 504 million euros, representing 81% of Belgium's total commitment. To what extent has this really helped poorer countries to adapt better (=adaptation) to the inevitable consequences of climate change? Or to emit fewer greenhouse gases or store them in soil, forests and the like (= mitigation)?

Such questions are best put to the Special Evaluation Office (SEO). The SEO regularly evaluates the actions of the Belgian Development Cooperation. Last year, Belgian climate finance was examined, more particularly the period from 2013 to 2019.

Significant results

The evaluation confirms that Belgian climate finance responds to the needs of partner countries and has booked results. Belgium is focusing on climate adaptation in the least developed countries, especially in Africa. Those countries are also keen for help. After all, they will feel the most impact from climate change in the short term. Moreover, adaptation is less supported internationally. Belgium is supporting sustainable water, soil and forest management, coastal protection through mangroves, reforestation, better water collection and so on.

Yet our country has also made some interventions concerning climate mitigation. For example, the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) is investing in renewable energy. And that can go beyond solar power. One example is KivuWatt in Rwanda that uses methane gas from Lake Kivu to generate electricity. At the same time, the project prevents the leakage of methane, as a powerful greenhouse gas.

The FPS Environment is focusing predominantly on the 'institutional strengthening' of partner countries. For example, helping to draw up plans for national contributions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is also strengthening the capabilities of partner countries to implement interventions around climate adaptation and mitigation.

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KivuWatt in Rwanda

BIO invested in KivuWatt in Rwanda, a power plant that uses methane gas from Lake Kivu. © BIO

Downsides

Still, there are downsides. One downside is that current climate actions are not sufficient to address the immense climate challenges. There is a lot to gain by better coordination of and cooperation between Belgian climate players, a clear vision, more resources, etc.

Indeed, it is striking that climate is often not the main objective of Belgian projects. Belgian stakeholders lack clear objectives and agreement on what exactly a climate adaptation or mitigation project entails.

The wide range of climate stakeholders are not going far enough in their collaboration - more synergies are possible. A clear vision is lacking at Belgian level. Also, remarkably little use is made of real climate experts, especially for fieldwork. It is also difficult to measure the exact climate impact. In general, little private funding is attracted.

Guidance from climate stakeholders

All agencies involved have carefully considered the SEO's recommendations. For example, the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation - a division of FPS Foreign Affairs - will provide better guidance and more resources to the various climate players. In addition, it will establish an overarching climate platform to allow for the exchange of experiences and good practice. It also aims to strengthen the institutions that coordinate climate action in partner countries.

In turn, BIO will increase its internal climate knowledge and contribute to making its clients more climate aware. The Belgian Development Agency (Enabel) will deploy more climate experts and ensure that climate and environmental issues are systematically addressed in all of its projects. It also aims to collaborate better with the private sector.

The evaluation by SEO has clearly shed new light on Belgian climate finance. And this is not without consequence. The players involved are taking due account of the recommendations. This can only benefit the quality of climate finance.